What is Opt-in Text Messaging and How Can You Make It Work For You?

In 2007, The New York Times published an article highlighting the not-so-surprising truth about modern society: that the average person sees about 5,000 advertisements a day. Since that story was published over 10 years ago, the prevalence of social media and smartphones in general have skyrocketed that number; however, there’s at least one truly private place that many citizens of the information age take for granted. Sure, landscaping companies still wrap plastic bags around door knobs and local government candidates bombard mailboxes with postcards, but one sacred cache remains protected: the text message inbox.

Starting in 2011, the Federal Communications Commission began regulating the increasingly effective strategy of text message marketing, requiring companies and campaigns to only make use of opt-in text message campaigns. For a private citizen, these regulations offer privacy and a cleaner inbox, but for political campaigns it offers a challenge; although, if done right and executed strategically, opt-in text messaging can benefit not only the voter, but your campaign as well.

How Opt-in Text Messaging Works

In order to send out SMS messages to potential supporters, the FCC requires organizations and political campaigns to obtain written consent from voters to agree to receive messages from your campaign. This consent can come in the form of texting in a keyword to a short code or through filling out a consent form in person or online. In short: your campaign can only send SMS messages to people who opt in, or knowingly choose to receive them. You can then use these phone numbers to send relevant information about your campaign to voters, and even collect relevant data from voters.

There are many ways to quickly and easily gain consenting supporters for your opt-in text messaging campaign, and you’ve probably seen or even participated in the most popular method before. Texting in a keyword (“VOTE,” for example) to either a short code (a 6-digit number, used nationally) or a long code (a 7-digit number plus an area code) is the most instant and accessible way for a voter to consent to receiving text messages from your campaign. Once you’ve set up a keyword and a code using a political sms messages (like RoboCent), it’s important to get the word out about your text campaign.

Advertising a Text Campaign

Posting the keyword and code on all of your social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) is the most instantaneous way of advertising for a text campaign. After all, your demographic is already using their phones as the keyword pops up in their newsfeed. Getting your partners and sponsors in on your text campaign is vital as well, as they can use their followers to spread the keyword and code; not to mention, using traditional materials such as flyers and postcards with the call to action (or to text) is an age-old tactic.

In advertising your keyword and code, be sure to convey to voters that texting into the campaign will benefit them in some way. For example, they will be able to receive exclusive updates on your campaign or be the first to hear about volunteer opportunities. The average voter wants to know that in entering your texting campaign, they’ll be getting something that they can’t get anywhere else-- not to just receive spam.

The Follow Up

Once the user has opted in, you then have the opportunity to inquire for more information that might provide insight to your campaign. Since the user provided written consent to join your texting campaign and is clearly interested in your cause, they are more likely to be willing to engage in follow up conversations via text. Through these crucial follow up conversations, your campaign will have the opportunity to add users into additional groups within your texting campaign (such as canvassers, ambassadors, and so on), to get even more involved with your political campaign and receive messages relevant to those groups.

Additionally, you will have to opportunity to ask for possible demographic information and feedback for your campaign all through the simple and instant medium of texting.

The most important tactic for making opt-in text messaging work for you is to stick to your word. If you advertise sending out exclusive volunteer opportunities or campaign updates for voters who opt in, make that a priority. Users, at any point, are legally given the right to opt out of any text message campaign at any point-- and they will. Opt-in text messaging implies an amount of trust from the voter: they trust that you won’t blow up their sacred inbox with nonsense, and you trust that they will continue to engage and support. Although gaining enough trust for voters to opt-in seems like a large task, it’s similar to gaining support in any other way. However, opt-in text messaging provides a concrete method of communication and engagement from your voter base, which is unique in its conception and will only make your political campaign even stronger.